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Champions for business and the arts

Updated: November 14, 2012 - 12:17 pm

Posted: November 9, 2012

Vince and Suzanne Mastracco look for three things when assessing whether a city is great - art, architecture and history.

They may be world travelers, but they always come back to their hometown, and they have made their mark on Nofolk's art, architecture and history.

Married for 45 years, this year's recipients of the Darden Award operate as a unit, and they always have.

"They are a dynamic couple," said Andria McClellan of Norfolk, who has known the Mastraccos for 10 years. McClellan met Vince while she was on the board of the Hampton Roads Technology Council and he was adviser to the group. She met Suzanne while on the board of the Museum of Contemporary Art and has worked with her on other volunteer projects.

"They have different personalities, but they are complementary," McClellan said.

"They are better as a whole. Vince is the business, technology and politics guy, and Suzanne is the arts and culture girl. It's a nice marriage of expertise. They are incredibly smart and very dedicated to our community. They have done a great job of spotlighting the Hampton Roads area to people in business and the arts outside of our community."

Vince and Suzanne met while students at Granby High School.

For Suzanne, the attraction was simple.

"I always knew he was the most interesting man in the room," she said.

After high school, they went their separate ways, Suzanne to William and Mary, Vince to the University of Virginia. They never really considered attending college together - it wouldn't have been an option for Suzanne to go to U.Va., anyway, because at the time, the university didn't admit women.

They dated - not exclusively, though - while Suzanne majored in visual arts and Vince majored in biology. He had wanted to become a doctor, but one class killed that dream.

"Organic chemistry," he said. "It's known to separate the docs from the no docs."

So Vince switched his major to psychology and went to law school at New York University, while Suzanne left for Boston. Both later returned home to Norfolk, and that's when things got serious.

Vince went to work for attorney Leroy Canoles in a firm that later merged into what is now Hampton Roads' largest law firm, Kaufman and Canoles. Suzanne opened a boutique called The Tree House. Vince would stop by after working all day at the law firm and scrub the floors.

They married in 1967. They set up a household in Ghent. Vince built up his law firm, and he says now that the biggest challenge in his marriage has been balancing his work and home life.

When Suzanne is asked about the biggest challenge, she looks perplexed and says she can't think of anything.

They have three children. Anna King, 42, is an attorney in Richmond. Sarah, 41, is a chef in New York. James, 37, is a film editor in Atlanta. They have four grandchildren.

One reason the couple were drawn together, they say, is that they both like to stay busy.

Vince, who served as his senior class president at Granby High, made his first major foray into community service as an adult when he and other young attorneys founded the Norfolk Free Clinic, which treated drug addicts.

Vince serves on the boards of the Eastern Virginia Medial School Foundation, the Greater Norfolk Corp., the Hampton Roads Partnership, Virginia Wesleyan College, the Hampton Roads Foundation, the University of Virginia and the Virginia Foundation of Independent Colleges. He's also the owner of several buildings around Norfolk.

Suzanne served on the board of the YWCA and helped found the Children's Art Center in Norfolk. She serves on the board of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and is a member of the Virginia Arts Festival, the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art.

Harry Lester, the president of Eastern Virginia Medical School, has known the couple for decades and particularly got to know Suzanne years ago, when they worked together in bringing The Art of Glass exhibit to the Chrysler Museum of Art. He called the project and working with Suzanne "extraordinary," adding she was the "driving force" behind bringing the world-renowned Art of Glass to Norfolk.

"She is a remarkably talented person," Lester said. "She's an artist - not many people are aware of that. Art is her thing. She is just a very talented and lovely person."

And Vince?

"I don't know where to start," Lester said. "He is the rainmaker. He makes things happen. His fingerprints are on more business deals in Hampton Roads than just about anybody else's. He is a go-to kind of person."

And Suzanne and Vince as a couple?

"They are both genuinely very nice, kind, generous people who are interested in their community," Lester said. "They have been very generous with their time and talents and their money, and you can't ask more of anyone than that."

Post-event coverage

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